Labour Party (Ireland)

Labour Party (Ireland)

Infobox Irish_Political_Party
party_name = Páirtí an Lucht Oibre
Labour Party
party_articletitle = Labour Party (Ireland)
leader = Eamon Gilmore
deputy leader = Joan Burton
foundation = 1912
ideology = Democratic socialism,
Social democracy,
position = Moderate left/broad left
international = Socialist International
european = Party of European Socialists
europarl = Socialist Group in the European Parliament
colours = Red
headquarters = 17 Ely Place,
Dublin 2
website = []

The Labour Party ( _ga. Páirtí an Lucht Oibre) is a democratic socialist and social democratic political party in the Republic of Ireland. Founded by James Connolly in 1912 as the political wing of the Irish Trade Union Congress, it claims to be the country's oldest continuous political party. It holds 20 of the 166 seats in Dáil Éireann and is the third-largest political party in the State. In the 2007 general election, it gained 10.1% of the popular vote. The Labour Party has served in government for a total of nineteen years, six times in coalition either with Fine Gael alone or with Fine Gael and other smaller parties, and once with Fianna Fáil. Currently in opposition, it is the second most successful party of all the parties in Dáil Éireann in terms of time served in government (one year more than Fine Gael). The current party leader is Eamon Gilmore. He was elected in October 2007 alongside, Joan Burton, deputy leader.


"See Also:History of the Irish Labour Party"


In 1912, James Connolly, James Larkin and William X. O'Brien established the Irish Labour party as the political wing of the Irish Trade Union Congress. This party would represent the workers in the expected Dublin Parliament under the Third Home Rule Act 1914. However, after the defeat of the trade unions in the Dublin Lockout of 1913 the labour movement was weakened, and the emigration of James Larkin in 1914 and the execution of James Connolly in 1916 further damaged it.

The Irish Citizens Army(ICA) formed during the 1913 Lockout [ [ The Irish Citizens Army - Labour Clenches its Fist by by Cieran Perry] ] , was informally the military wing of the Labour Movement, the ICA took part in the 1916 Rising [ [ BBC - History - 1916 Easter Rising - Profiles - Irish Citizen Army] ] . The ICA was revived during Peadar O'Donnell's Republican Congress but after the 1935 split most ICA members joined the Irish Labour Party.

The British Labour Party had previously organised in Ireland but in 1913 the Labour NEC agreed that the Irish Labour Party would have organising rights over the entirety of Ireland. A group of trade unionists in Belfast objected and the Belfast Labour Party, which later became the nucleus of the Northern Ireland Labour Party, remained outside the new party.

Early history

In Larkin's absence, William X. O'Brien became the dominant figure in the Irish Transport and General Workers' Union and wielded considerable influence in the Labour Party. O'Brien also dominated the Irish Trade Union Congress. The Labour party, now led by Thomas Johnson, as successor to such organisations as D. D. Sheehan's (independent Labour MPs) Irish Land and Labour Association (ILLA), declined to contest the 1918 general election, in order to allow the election to take the form of a plebiscite on Ireland's constitutional status(although some candidates did run in Belfast constituencies under the Labour banner against Unionist candidates) [ [ Election Results of 14 December 1918] ] . It also refrained from contesting the 1921 elections. As a result the party was left out of the Dáil during the vital years of the independence struggle, though Johnson sat in the First Dáil.

Labour Party in the Irish Free State

The Anglo-Irish Treaty divided the Labour party. Some members sided with the Irregulars in the Irish Civil War that quickly followed. O'Brien and Johnson encouraged its members to support the Treaty. In the 1922 general election the party won 17 seats. However there were a number of strikes during the first year and a loss in support for the party. In the 1923 general election the Labour Party only won 14 seats. From 1922 until Fianna Fáil TDs took their seats in 1927, the Labour Party was the major opposition party in the Dáil. It attacked the lack of social reform by the Cumann na nGaedhael government.

In 1923 Larkin returned to Ireland. He hoped to take over the leadership role he had left, but O'Brien resisted him. Larkin sided with the more radical elements of the party and in September that year he established the Irish Worker League.

In 1932 the Labour Party supported Éamon de Valera's first Fianna Fáil government, which had proposed a programme of social reform with which the party was in sympathy. In the 1940s it looked for a while as if the Labour Party would replace Fine Gael as the main opposition party. In the 1943 general election the party won 17 seats, its best result since 1927.


The split with National Labour and the first coalition governments

The Larkin-O'Brien feud still continued, and worsened over time. In the 1940s the hatred caused a split in the Labour party and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. In 1944 O'Brien left with 6 TDs and founded the National Labour Party. James Everett was the leader of National Labour Party. O'Brien also withdrew the ITGWU from the Irish Trade Unions Congress and set up his own congress. The split damaged the Labour movement in the 1944 general election. It was only after Larkin's death in 1947 that an attempt at unity could be made.

After th 1948 election National Labour had 5 TD's - James Everett, Dan Spring, James Pattison, James Hickey and John O'Leary.National Labour and Labour( with 14 TDs) both entered the first inter-party government, National Labour Leader became Minister of Posts and Telegraphs, in 1950 they two Labour parties merged.

From 1948–1951 and from 1954–1957 the Labour Party was the second-largest partner in the two inter-party governments. William Norton, the Labour Party leader, became Tánaiste and Minister for Social Welfare on both occasions. See First Inter-Party Government and Second Inter-Party Government.

Reestablishment of the Labour Party in Northern Ireland

During this period the party stood for elections in Northern Ireland, after a split in the Northern Ireland Labour Party when Paddy Devlin helped re-establish the party in Belfast, the party did win seats in the Westminster Parliament (Jack BeattieBardon, Jonathan, A History of Ulster, p 523 (The Black Staff Press, Belfast, 1992)] [ [ Election History of John(Jack) Beattie -] ] MP for West Belfast 1951) [ [ A brief history of Northern Ireland Westminster Elections by Nicholas Whyte(] ] and Stormont Parliament in the Belfast area as well as in district council elections(Falls, Belfast City Council by election 1956, Gerry Fitt 1958 Council Elections).However the party is not known to have contested an election in the region since Gerry Fitt, then the party's sole Stormont MP, left the party to form the Republican Labour Party in 1964.

Labour Party under Brendan Corish, 1960–1977

In 1960 Brendan Corish became the new Labour Party leader. As leader he advocated and introduced more socialist policies to the party. Between 1973 and 1977 the Labour Party formed a coalition government with Fine Gael. The coalition partners lost the subsequent 1977 general election. Corish resigned immediately after the defeat.

The 1980s: Coalition, internal feuding, electoral decline and regrowth

From 1981 to 1982 and from 1982 to 1987, the Labour Party participated in coalition governments with Fine Gael. In the later part of the second of these coalition terms, the country's poor economic and fiscal situation required strict curtailing of government spending, and the Labour Party bore much of the blame for unpopular cutbacks in health and other social services. In the 1987 general election it received only 6.4% of the vote, and its vote was increasingly threatened by the growth of the Marxist and more radical 'Workers Party'. Fianna Fáil formed a minority government from 1987 to 1989 and then a coalition with the Progressive Democrats.

The 1980s saw fierce disagreements between left and right wings of the party. The more radical elements, led by figures including Emmet Stagg, opposed the idea of going into coalition government with either of the major centre-right parties. At the 1989 Labour Party conference in Tralee a number of socialist and Marxist activists, organised around the Militant newspaper, were expelled. These expulsions continued during the early 1990s and those expelled, including Joe Higgins, went on to found the Socialist Party.

These rows ended with the defeat of the anti-coalition left. In the period since, there have been further discussions about coalitions in the party but these disagreements have primarily been over the merits of different coalition partners rather than over the principle of coalition. Related arguments have taken place from time to time over the wisdom of entering into pre-election voting pacts with other parties. Indeed former radicals like Stagg now themselves support coalition.

The 1990s: Growing Political influence and involvement

In 1990 Mary Robinson became the first President of Ireland to have been proposed by the Labour Party, although she contested the election as an independent candidate, she had been expelled from the party over her opposition to the Anglo Irish Agreement. Not only was it the first time a woman held the office but it was the first time, apart from Douglas Hyde, that a non-Fianna Fáil candidate was elected. In 1990 the Party merged with the Limerick East TD Jim Kemmy's Democratic Socialist Party and in 1992 it merged with Sligo-Leitrim TD Declan Bree's Independent Socialist Party (in May Declan Bree resigned from the Labour Party over differences with the Leadership [ [ Declan Bree resigns from Labour, indymedia, May 28th 2007] ] [ [ DECLAN BREE’S RESIGNATION LETTER, May 2007] ] ).

At the 1992 general election the Labour Party won a record 19.3% of the first-preference votes, more than twice its share in the 1989 general election. The party's representation in the Dáil doubled to 33 seats and, after a period of negotiations, the Labour Party formed a coalition with Fianna Fáil, taking office in January 1993 as the 23rd government of Ireland. Fianna Fáil leader Albert Reynolds remained as Taoiseach, and Labour Party leader Dick Spring became Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs.

After less than two years the government fell in a controversy over the appointment of Attorney-General, Harry Whelehan, as president of the High Court. The parliamentary arithmetic had changed as a result of Fianna Fáil's loss of two seats in by-elections in June, where the Labour Party itself had performed disastrously. On the pretext that the Labour Party voters were not happy with involvement with Fianna Fáil, Dick Spring withdrew his support for Reynolds as Taoiseach. The Labour Party negotiated a new coalition, the first time in Irish political history that one coalition replaced another without a general election. Between 1994 and 1997 Fine Gael, the Labour Party, and Democratic Left governed in the "Rainbow Coalition". Dick Spring of the Labour Party became Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs again.

Merger with Democratic Left and recent electoral performance

The Labour Party presented the 1997 general election, held just weeks after spectacular victories for the French Parti Socialiste and Tony Blair's New Labour, as the first ever choice between a government of the left and one of the right, but the party, as had often been the case following its participation in coalitions, lost support and failed to retain some of its Dáil seats. A poor performance by Labour Party candidate Adi Roche in the subsequent election for President of Ireland led to Spring's resignation as party leader.

In 1997 Ruairi Quinn became the new Labour Party leader. Negotiations started almost immediately and in 1999 the Labour Party merged with Democratic Left, keeping the name of the larger partner, members of Democratic Left in the North of Ireland were invited to join the Irish Labour Party but not permitted to organise. [ [ Steven King on Thursday] , Steven King, "Belfast Telegraph", 17 December 1998] .This left Gerry Cullen their councilor in Dungannon Borough Council in a state of limbo elected for a party he could no longer seek election for. [ [ The 1993 Local Government Elections in Northern Ireland,] ]

The launch in the Pillar Room of the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin. [ [ Red rose shapes up to future by Liam O'Neill, Irish Examiner, January 25th, 1999] ]

Quinn resigned as leader in 2002 following the poor results for the Labour Party in the 2002 general election. Former Democratic Left TD Pat Rabbitte became the new leader, the first to be elected directly by the members of the party.

In the 2004 elections to the European Parliament, Proinsias De Rossa retained his seat for the Labour Party in the Dublin constituency. This was the Labour Party's only success in the election. In the local elections held the same day, the Labour Party won over 100 county council seats, the first time ever in its history, and emerged as the largest party in Dublin City and Galway city.

2007 general election and aftermath

Prior to the 2004 local elections, Party Leader Pat Rabbitte had endorsed a mutual transfer pact with Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny. Rabbitte proposed the extension of this strategy, named "the Mullingar Accord" after a meeting between Rabbitte and Kenny in the County Westmeath town, at the 2005 Labour Party National Conference.

Rabbitte's strategy was favoured by most TD's, notably Deputy Leader Liz McManus, Eamon Gilmore, who had proposed a different electoral strategy in the 2002 leadership election, and former opponent of coalition Emmet Stagg. Opposition to the strategy was identified with Brendan Howlin, who was perceived to be in favour of coalition with Fianna Fáil, and Kathleen Lynch and Tommy Broughan, who opposed the boost that would be given to Fine Gael in such a strategy. Outside the PLP, organised opposition to the pact came from Labour Youth and the ATGWU, who opposed the pact on political and tactical grounds. Nevertheless, the strategy proposed by Rabbitte was supported by approximately 80% of members.

In the 2007 general election the Labour Party failed to increase its seat total and had a net loss of 1 seat, returning with 20 seats. Fine Gael, the Labour Party, the Green Party and independents did not have enough seats to form a government. Pat Rabbitte resisted calls to enter negotiations with Fianna Fáil on forming a government. Eventually, Fianna Fáil entered government with the Progressive Democrats and the Green Party with the support of independents.

On 23 August 2007, Pat Rabbitte resigned as Labour Party leader. He stated that he took responsibility for the outcome of the recent general election, in which his party failed to gain new seats and failed to replace the outgoing government.

On 6 September 2007, Eamon Gilmore was unanimously elected leader of the Labour Party, being the only nominee after Pat Rabbitte's resignation.

ections of the Labour Party

Within the Labour Party there are different sections:
* Labour Youth
* Labour Women
* Labour Trade Unionists
* Labour Councillors
* Labour Equality (this section also includes groups such as Labour LGBT and Labour Disability)

Affiliates of the Labour Party

Like its counter-part the UK Labour Party (UK), the Irish Labour Party constitution makes provision for both Trade Unions and Socialist Societies to affiliate to the party. There are currently twelve Trade Unions affiliated to the Party:

* Amalgamated Transport & General Workers Union (ATGWU) (T&G);
* Munster & District Graphical Society;
* Irish Municipal Public and Civil Trade Unions (IMPACT) Municipal Employees Division;
* National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT);
* General, Municipal and Boilermakers' Union (GMB);
* Services, Industrial, Professional & Technical Union (SIPTU);
* Bakery and Food Workers Amalgamated Union (BFWAU);
* Transport Salaried Staff Association(TSSA);
* Union of Construction and Allied Trades(UCATT);
* Amicus

Socialist Societies Affiliated to the Party:
* Labour Party Lawyers Group
* Association of Labour Teachers
* Labour Social Services Group


*Thomas Johnson (1922–1927)
*Thomas J. O'Connell (1927–1932)
*William Norton (1932–1960)
*Brendan Corish (1960–1977)
*Frank Cluskey (1977–1981)
*Michael O'Leary (1981–1982)
*Dick Spring (1982–1997)
*Ruairi Quinn (1997–2002)
*Pat Rabbitte (2002–2007)
*Eamon Gilmore (2007–)

Deputy Leader

Labour Party Front Bench

*See: "Frontbench Team of the Labour Party (Ireland)"


ee also

*History of the Labour Party (Ireland)
*Labour Youth

External links

* [ Official Website]
* [ Labour Youth - Youth section]
* [ Labour's Flickr photostream]

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